Painting Clouds

Clouds have to be one of my favourite things to look at.  They are constantly changing, come in many forms and have an element of mystery to them.  Until the nineteenth century, they were all just called “essences” as nobody thought to classify or name the different types.

In 1802, a 30-year-old amateur meteorologist, Luke Howard, decided to categorize and name them.  He presented his findings to the Askesian Society in London, his work was accepted and is what we still use today.

I find clouds to be one of the most difficult things to paint.  The reason for this is that usually when I draw or paint anything I use a technique called the “Form Principle.”  The Form Principle is a way of representing the way light and shadow fall on objects.  This works well for painting solid objects as you think of the shape of the object you want to represent, then decide where the light source is, and this guides you as to where you put your light areas and shadows.

Form.Direct.Light

Diagram illustrating the Form Principle.  Artist Unknown

 

Unfortunately, this technique has only limited success when painting clouds.  The problem with this is you wind up with clouds that look solid – and that is not good.

When you observe clouds in the sky, the light not only hits the surface of them, it penetrates and scatters inside them; it is a phenomenon called sub-surface scattering.  If you have ever put a flashlight behind your fingers and noticed the way the light makes the outer edges of your fingers glow you have experienced what subsurface scattering is. This is the key to making clouds look believable.  Even at this point, though, you need to think about what kind of cloud it is an how its masses are formed.  The density of water droplets inside them will change the way light interacts with them.

scott-douglas-cloud_1

Below, I have painted over the previous diagram.  The form layer is still there, but the light comes through the sphere spreading the highlight out to a much broader area, filling out to the edges and illuminating the area that follows the path of the light rays (the area in this diagram right below the reflected light). The area outside the sphere has a bit of a glow, but not too much.  Even though clouds aren’t solid, they often appear to have defined edges.

FormDirectLight_clouds

The diagram above still doesn’t look like a cloud, though.  What is wrong with the picture is that it is not built like a cloud.  Believe it or not, clouds do have structure.  I’ll update this post soon with some thoughts about the anatomy of clouds.

Red Clouds

I created the two paintings above using Artrage on my iPad.  I have a few more in progress and will add them to this post soon.

Planes

Here are some story panels I did for Disney’s Planes in 2013.  The process for these was to take the 3D character models in Maya, light and render them and create the simple 3D backgrounds. The main portion of this task was combining all the elements and creating a digital painting in Photoshop.  One of the challenges for these was to make sure the planes are always positioned so you can see their mouths -so you can read their expressions.  This task was much easier on Cars as their mouths are right at the front.  With Planes, the long fuselages presented a challenge.

NIS_Germany_1NIS_Germany_2NIS_Germany_3NIS_Mexico_1

50 Canadians

Earlier this year I started a new series of portraits of Canadians,  The first one I did was of CBC’s Rex Murphy followed by a portrait of Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.  I met the mayor today and presented the painting to him.  I was thrilled when he said it was “more than amazing”.

I plan on doing fifty of these and have two more in progress right now.  They are three by five inches, acrylic on canvas.

Here are the first two:

Rex MurphyMayor Dean Fortin

 

Andrew Loomis, for what it’s worth.

A few months back as I was working on a series of digital paintings on my iPod I decided to try something like a figure drawing.  Up to this point I’d only done portraits – mainly because of the small screen size – and I suppose I’m more drawn to portraits, anyway.

A friend of mine told me about the work of Andrew Loomis and I picked up a copy of his book, Figure Drawing: For All it’s Worth.  I decided to do a study of one of his drawings, only paint it in a style reminiscent of Gil Elvgren.

It was fun to do, but painting this small is a real challenge – getting the face right was the hardest part.  Anyway, here it is:

Brushes on the iPod touch: Series 3

The third series I’ve been working on is portraits of my family.   My son was interested in the portraits that have become the Held series and asked if I would paint his portrait, too.  I had him sit for me a few times.  I  don’t think I’ve completed a piece that I’ve had as much emotional investment in before.

He wore that red shirt specially for this portrait – it’s actually a Smurfs shirt.  I didn’t put that in, though, as I thought it would be distracting.  I have three other portraits in progress for this series (including one of my cat) which I will be posting soon.

Digital Painting on an iPod: Series 2

This is the first image of a second series of paintings made on an iPod touch.  Part of the reason I’ve been doing portraits like this is I like the feeling of intimacy these pictures have, held on a small screen.  It reminds me of the miniature paintings travelers would carry with them before the invention of photography.   Portraits like that were often used as a form of introduction, or to have an image of a loved one with you when you couldn’t be together.

After doing a number of portraits of people like this I felt compelled to do something a little different.  So here we have the first of a set of animals, in this case a chimpanzee.  The challenge with this painting was to imbue it with a sense of presence, but not a human one.

Held: Digital Paintings made on an iPod touch

This is a series I am currently working on called Held.  The work came about after a few things happening around the same time.  One was that I had an iPod and was wondering what I might do with it creatively, another was I found out about an app called Brushes from a colleague.  The third was that I had been looking at  a series of paintings made by Théodore Géricault,  his “portraits of the insane”.

In 1821, Géricault painted a series of ten (only five remain today) portraits of  psychiatric patients.  What I find compelling about these images is that the circumstances around their creation was very unique for the  time.  These people he painted hadn’t commissioned his services and certainly wouldn’t own the work when it was complete.  I think it is for these reasons that Géricault was free to paint these people as he really saw them.  There is no attempt to flatter and there are no favors to be gained by connecting with these people.  The result is something so honest and psychologically complex.

I considered doing studies of them (I still might), but what I wanted to do more was something new.  So here we have this series: